GREATER Western Sydney coach Leon Cameron has launched a staunch defence of underperforming midfielder Josh Kelly and the star mid's hefty contract offer.
Cameron said he fully expected Kelly to "bounce back" and spend the rest of his career at the Giants.
Kelly has been criticised for the impact he's had on games in the Giants' two losses to start the season, particularly after the loss to Fremantle.
But Cameron said he was "really confident and comfortable with how he's tracking".
"To his credit, he was a little crook on the weekend. He started the game slowly but after quarter-time I thought he really fought the fight well," Cameron said.
"[Kelly's] 2017 was an unbelievable year, as an All-Australian. But I think you need to put into context the groin issues that he had for 2018 and 2019.
"I thought there were some really good glimpses on the weekend under some duress. I expect him to be bouncing back on Sunday."
Kelly's long-term commitment to the club is again under scrutiny. The 26-year-old's current contract ends this year as he becomes a free agent, but he has an option to move onto an eight-year deal at already-agreed terms.
A contract of that length would see Kelly join a growing group of Giants' players on long-term deals, an approach few other clubs follow but one that is perhaps indicative of the unique challenges that an expansion club still faces.
"He's really settled in Sydney, his partner is from Sydney. I'm really comfortable that [contract discussion] is heading in the right direction," Cameron said.
"You secure long-term players up for long deals because you want them there for life.
"[Lachie] Whitfield is a lifer, Toby Greene is a lifer, [Stephen] Coniglio is a lifer, and I'm confident Josh Kelly will be a lifer for the Giants."
Cameron said dashing defender Whitfield was nearing his return from a bruised liver, although he could not give an exact timeframe.
The reigning club champion joined in a few drills at training on Thursday, but stepped aside for the bulk of the session.
"He's heading in the right direction, and there have been no setbacks in the last three or four weeks," Cameron said.
Jesse Hogan returned to training with the main group early last week, and joined in again on Tuesday.
But he missed the session on Thursday, continuing the Giants' ongoing plan for the high-profile recruit to be 'off legs' midweek.
The Giants don't have a VFL practice match this weekend, so Cameron said Hogan "will have a really big session on the weekend."
"Hopefully that hand goes up for selection the week after against Collingwood," Cameron said.
"He's in a really good space. We feel as though he can contribute, and starting next week we feel as though he can be up for selection whether that be at the lower level or the higher level."